By Alyssa Dalton
(UPDATED April 11, 2014, with VIDEO) April 8, 2014 – The Government of Nunavut and Cisco Canada have launched Connected North, a program delivering “immersive and interactive education and healthcare services” to remote and northern Aboriginal and Inuit communities through two-way video communication and collaboration technology.
Initiated last September, the pilot phase used satellite bandwidth donated by SSi Micro to connect grade 6, 7 and 8 classrooms at Nunavut’s Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik Middle School in real time with teachers, experts and other students across Canada for interactive sessions lasting up to 40 minutes. Two additional schools—the Deh Gah School in Fort Providence, N.W.T., and John Arnalukjuak High School in Arviat, Nunavut—will join the program this September.
“Rich and diverse educational programs are important investments to building a solid educational foundation for our current and future students,” said Paul Quassa, minister of education, Nunavut. “The physical geography of our communities is always a challenge and Connected North allows us to literally connect our classrooms with expertise in other jurisdictions.”
Students also connected with peers of the same age throughout Canada as part of the Classroom Connect component. In a study conducted by York University, initial findings noted 81% of students felt they learned more in the virtual sessions than traditional classroom learning.
The program represents a $1.6 million investment by Cisco in Canada’s northern communities, and uses Cisco TelePresence and Partners In Research’s (PIR’s) VROC (Virtual Researcher on Call) platform.
“By leveraging our technology expertise and uniting key private and public sector partners, we are aiming to make Connected North a vital and productive component of northern communities that will bring new levels of opportunities to inhabitants,” said Nitin Kawale, Cisco Canada president.
Connected North will also address psychiatric and youth mental health services in northern Aboriginal and Inuit communities through Cisco TelePresence high-definition video links. As well, Cisco and RBC Foundation announced plans to launch the Tele-Link Mental Health Program—developed by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children—in select Nunavut health centres in September.
VIDEO: At a press announcement in March 2014, Cisco Canada showed off its TelePresence video conference technology, one of the newest features at Earth Rangers, a children’s learning centre based in the Toronto, Ont., area.
Photos courtesy Cisco Canada.